Pay Off Student Loans The Smart Way Paying off student loans can be a financial nightmare. But if you know how to navigate the system, you can find a payment plan that's more affordable. Plus, if you qualify for loan forgiveness, you might get tens of thousands of dollars of debt wiped out.
Here's what to remember:
- Download a list of all your federal loans.
- If you get an income-driven repayment plan, stay in it!
- Don't trust your loan servicer. Do the research, find your payment plan and get it in writing.
- Take a personal day or make a date with a friend to tackle student-loan paperwork.
- Consider a full frontal assault on your loans to pay them down quickly.
- Loan consolidation or refinancing might make sense for you, but might also lead to financial disaster.
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Pay Off Student Loans The Smart Way

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Pay Off Student Loans The Smart Way

Pay Off Student Loans The Smart Way

Pay Off Student Loans The Smart Way

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LA Johnson/NPR
If you know how to navigate the federal student loan system, you can find a payment plan you can afford.
LA Johnson/NPR

Paying off student loans can be a financial nightmare. The system is loaded with confusing payment plan options, bad information and pitfalls to avoid — and one wrong move can cost you thousands of dollars. But if you know how to navigate, with federal student loans, you can find a payment plan that you can actually afford. Plus, if you qualify for loan forgiveness, you might get tens of thousands of dollars of debt wiped out.

Here's what to remember:

  • Download a list of all your federal loans from this page at the Department of Education.
  • If you get an income-driven repayment plan, stay in it!
  • Don't trust your loan servicer. Do the research, know what payment plan you want and get a statement in writing that you're in the plan and on track.
  • Get better at life admin! Take a personal day or make an "admin study hall" date with a friend to tackle the student loan paperwork.
  • Consider a full frontal assault on your loans. If you can live with parents or roommates, or get a second job, you might be able to pay off your loans and get to a better place quickly.
  • Loan consolidation or refinancing can be tempting and can sometimes make sense. But it can also knock you off the track of your payment plan and lead to financial disaster. Know what's going to happen before you consolidate or refinance.
  • Look for more resources and help from the Student Borrower Protection Center, the Education Department's Federal Student Aid office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.